LOUD WHISPERS : Clapping With One Hand

I am delighted to have been asked to deliver the 5th Distinguished Guest Lecture here at the University of Medical Sciences, Ondo. I am particularly pleased that the University has chosen to devote this year’s lecture to the issue of women’s education, leadership and national development, a topic that is very close to my heart.


Millions of women and girls in Nigeria suffer from the feminization of poverty, lack of access to basic resources, disease, violent conflict and the complex use of culture, religion and tradition to render women voiceless. Crimes against women, young girls and children are on the rise. Gender-based violence, femicides, rapes, sexual assaults, harmful traditional and religious practices, religious fundamentalisms, voluntary and involuntary commercial sex work, trafficking, sexual exploitation, institutionalized gender-based discrimination, kidnappings, and so on,  make private and public spaces in our country very unsafe for women and girls.  In addition, Nigeria continues to record unacceptably high levels of maternal and infant mortality rates, one of the highest in the world.


 Nigeria features poorly on most global indicators measuring Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GEWE). The 2014 World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report rated Nigeria 118/177, the 2015 World Bank Gender Equality Measure Report gave Nigeria 158/177, the 2016 UNDP Gender Inequality Index rated the country  152/188 and the 2017 World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report ratings place Nigeria 122/144. As a result of the above, Nigeria is ranked as one of the 20 worst countries in the world for women alongside Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, DRC, Yemen and other countries usually associated with a very low status for women. Not only did Nigeria not meet any of the original Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), if care is not taken, we might not meet most of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2030 either.


These challenges continue to rage unabated because of factors such as patriarchal power and privilege which provides an excuse for the use of culture, tradition and religion to undermine the progress of women and girls. Another major factor is violent conflict and displacement.  Education has been disrupted so badly in many parts of Northern Nigeria that the effects will be felt for many years to come. The rampant kidnapping of children and young girls has had serious implications.  According to findings from UBEC, National Population Commission, National Bureau of Statistics and UNICEF, Nigeria currently has one of the highest rates of out of school children (10.5m) many of them females (60%). This has dire implications for their future. An educated woman will make better family decisions with regards to education, number of pregnancies, spacing, childcare, nutrition and health. There are also millions of Nigerians living in Internally Displaced Camps around the country (1.9m) and 53% of them are women, with the attendant risks that this poses. Sadly, there is also minimal political will to push for gender equality and women’s empowerment beyond policy rhetoric. The national and State gender machineries in Nigeria are grossly under-resourced making it very difficult for them to coordinate and implement effective gender mainstreaming policies.






In a University such as this, I would like to advocate for an approach that opens the minds of teachers and students alike to the need to have a firm grasp of concepts such as gender and feminism. We cannot advance women’s rights and seek gender equality without using feminist analysis and tools. Without an analysis steeped in the politics of feminist agency, our work will not be as productive as we would like it to be. This University is training policy makers, decision-makers and practitioners. The next generation has to be equipped with tools to think and act differently.





Another area of critical concern for tertiary institutions going forward is ensuring that there is enough knowledge of how legislative and policy frameworks create an enabling environment for gender issues to thrive. We still have significant gaps and challenges in this area, and we should all be concerned about our lack of institutional capacity to enforce laws and policies. Inadequate implementation frameworks, lack of reliable data, lack of financial, technical, material and human resources, lack of cohesion and coordination, insufficient analysis and research, lack of continuity, and much more, make implementation extremely difficult. At the minimum, we require for example the Domestication of the National Gender Policy of 2005 (revised in 2015) by all States in Nigeria, domestication and implementation of the Violence against Persons Act of 2015 and the Domestication of the Child Rights Act by the States in Nigeria who have not already done so. We also need to see the passing of the pending Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill by the National Assembly.





There is a lot of support that is required from philanthropic institutions both public and private to address women’s rights and gender equality because the government and donor agencies cannot do it all. Corporate funding in Nigeria to support women’s rights work is negligible. To the academics here who need grants for their research, there is a sound business case to be made for investments in women and girls. A trafficked and abused girl will not grow up to become the senior executive who will be able to afford the new car, state of the art equipment, house or other products companies  are selling.


The woman suffering from domestic violence will spend her money and time in and out of hospital or church, and will not have resources for the latest cell phone or refrigerator. The Corporate Social Responsibility goals of corporate bodies need to be revisited to allow for the inculcation of values and principles that espouse gender equality and women’s empowerment.  If they can invest in reality shows, beauty pageants, musical concerts and cooking competitions, they can fund training programs for young leaders and they can build more partnerships with academic institutions such as this one.




A priority of all educational institutions ranging from primary to tertiary levels is making the educational environment safe for women and girls. There has to be zero tolerance for the sexual abuse and exploitation of girls in schools. In cases of sexual assault and abuse, suspects and offenders need to be handed over to law enforcement agencies to be dealt with in accordance with relevant laws.




There is a need for sustainable partnerships with Male Champions. Even though they are mostly the beneficiaries of patriarchal power and privilege, men can negotiate the use of the power they have to ensure a world that is more just and safe for women. Every father, husband, brother and son has a stake in the ways women experience the world. These partnerships need to happen at a personal, political, professional and communal level. It is only when both men and women are able to fulfil their full potential that we can truly achieve the development and progress we seek.





Charity begins at home. If we would like to see a difference in the way things are done, let us begin by setting examples for others around us. For those of us who are parents of young children, bring them up differently from the norm. If we want a different outcome for our future the time to begin that change is now, otherwise we will have the same faces and voices of tyranny, disrespect and impunity. One of the famous sayings of Albert Einstein is that only a mad person does the same thing over and over again and expects a different result. Let us raise boys to be responsible men who respect women and girls who can become phenomenal women. For the young leaders here, I encourage you to keep learning, keep investing in yourself, keep good company and do not take the opportunities you have been given for granted.


We need a revolution that focuses on changing mind-sets, attitudes and behaviours, a shift in our cultures of hopelessness and despondence to one of hope and achievement. Please let us all make ourselves available to mentor or be mentored. Let us all look inwards and see what we can do more or less of. Central to all this is an acceptance that there can be no progress without women’s full and equal participation in society. Nigeria needs to stop clapping with one hand.

Thank you.




 Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She is currently the 1st Lady of Ekiti State. She can be reached at BAF@abovewhispers.com










Source: Above Whispers

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15 Responses to LOUD WHISPERS : Clapping With One Hand

  1. Olakunle Olajide May 14, 2019 at 5:26 pm

    Great delivery. I really hope our government can make the right policies as mentioned here.
    And as a person to lead a respectable life and also teach people on my way.

  2. Femi Diipo May 14, 2019 at 8:45 pm

    Clapping with one hand is indeed such a fruitless and futile effort when it’s not only easier but better and far more effective to clap with the two. The title alone has said it all and this is of course another brilliant one from one of the greatest women I know. We need to do better, we have and must do better and charity indeed begins at home.

  3. Victor Udoh May 15, 2019 at 10:02 am

    We really need to invest in our women and girls. Look at that Abuja saga now, police men who should enforce and uphold the law were the ones raping our women and girls. Nigeria, we need to do better.

  4. Lucy Attah May 15, 2019 at 10:05 am

    I wonder why you were never the given the honourable position of minister of women affairs. You know what it means to stand for women, you know what it means to stand for the girl child. It is allover you, it is your message. Tell me who would read this and wouldn’t want to get home and reason deeply. Sincerely, I think we have a lot of things to correct in Nigeria and the first step is, putting the right people where they should be.

  5. Ijeoma May 15, 2019 at 10:09 am

    Thank you for speaking the truth, for speaking the reality.

  6. Jumai Ahmed May 15, 2019 at 10:12 am

    Erelu, may you always be helped when you need it. I don’t even know what to say right but I hope we also start this change in our various homes.

  7. DSEED May 15, 2019 at 5:12 pm

    A note to work with. “Charity begins at home” We should all strive to work out the better future right from now. We shouldn’t be expecting a different result if only the men are the ones carrying out every responsible, leaving out the place of women to function. It has never worked and cannot work. The early we know the better for our future. No one clap with one hand.

  8. Nnamdi Chuks May 16, 2019 at 12:11 pm

    For everyone out there doing one brilliant thing or the other, well done and I hope that this goes to a lot of people. A whole of us are not taking the fight for women and girls seriously. We need to champion this cause.

  9. Veronica Imaseun May 16, 2019 at 12:12 pm

    Thank you for always speaking the truth. Always.

  10. Mosunmola Adeola May 16, 2019 at 3:10 pm

    Well done Ma. You are keep pushing the message every where.

  11. Shina Dideolu May 16, 2019 at 3:12 pm

    I really wish we would have more women and men championing this cause passionately as you are doing ma. I am being pushed everyday to do better via the different things I have learnt and read on this platform.

  12. Bisi Alawode May 16, 2019 at 3:13 pm

    my mama, I stan!

  13. Sandra Mathews May 16, 2019 at 3:18 pm

    We really need to start from our homes. I feel that the problems we have now is that lots of us failed in raising accountable men, we failed in supporting our girls to be more. We failed in being a safe haven for our girls and this why the society has become the way it is right now. So, Let us go back home and start all over again.

  14. Jimoh Olalekan Abayomi May 19, 2019 at 9:35 pm

    This is awesome!

  15. Eric Onuoha May 22, 2019 at 1:04 pm

    I agree with the saying that charity begins at home. When our boys and girls are properly trained and brought up well at home, we will have a society with lesser vices


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